Minnesota Twins: 6 First Round Picks that ended as Busts
By Otto Johnson
The Minnesota Twins have had many first-round picks that didn’t pan out, so we took a look at five of the highest picks to flop.
The Minnesota Twins in their sixty years in Minnesota have had seventy-four first round picks. Fifty-nine were their own picks (or picks they traded for) and sixteen have come in the supplemental round.
The Twins have hit on several first round picks, including Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Chuck Knoblauch, all of whom are in the top twenty of our Top 50 Twins List. However the Twins have had many busts as well.
We’ll take a look at five of the highest picks to fail. In order to be considered a failure, the player must sign with the team and play in the Twins minor league system for at least one season. We also only looked at players drafted within the top 15, to find the bigger busts.
We also avoided including players like Tyler Jay, Kohl Stewart, and Nick Gordon, because their careers are still too young to judge and they (Gordon particularly) could still have some value. With so many mistakes to go through, let’s get to it.
No. 6: Paul Ray Powell
The No. 7 pick in the 1969 draft and the highest pick in Twins history at that point, Paul Powell came into the franchise with high hopes. The C/OF hit for .366 in his junior year at Arizona State and added on eleven home runs and 73 RBI.
Unfortunately for Powell and the Twins, Powell never was able to find that stroke at the major league level. Powell lasted just one season with the Twins, playing in twenty games, and hitting .161 and his only career home run before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The only reason Powell falls to six on this list is because he was the lowest pick on this list (No. 7) and because he is the only player on this list with a positive WAR. Powell’s WAR is 0.1. Yeah, this list gets ugly.
No. 5: Dave McCarty
Dave McCarty was the No. 3 Pick in the 1991 draft after a three-year career where he starred at Stanford. McCarty hit .359 over his three seasons and hit a solid 41 home runs. His contact and fielding were his calling cards though, as he was expected to be the first baseman of the future.
Similar to Paul Ray though, the college numbers didn’t transfer over to the majors. Despite hitting a very good .306 and 136 homers in 839 minor league games across his career, McCarty couldn’t stick with Twins. He hit .226 with a .275 OBP, 3 HR, and 37 RBI in 167 games over three years.
McCarty finished his Twins career with a -3.2 WAR, the lowest on this list, but McCarty played more major league games than any of the other players. He also managed an eleven year career as a journeyman with seven teams (Minnesota Twins included).
No. 4: Bryan Oelkers
The No. 4 pick coming out of Wichita State in 1982, Bryan Oelkers was supposed to be the Twins next great ace with his 6′ 3″ frame. The Spanish hurler had a good fastball and was supposed to be pretty close to major league ready.
More from Puckett's Pond
- Minnesota Twins: 2022 Year in Review for Twins Baseball
- Minnesota Twins: Making the Case for the Current 2023 Rotation
- Minnesota Twins: Does the MLB or the Twins have a Spending Problem?
- Minnesota Twins: 2 Possible Free Agent Reunions for 2023
- Minnesota Twins: Holiday Wish List for the rest of the Offseason
Oelkers had a good first season in the minors, though he only pitched in eight games. The next season, despite not pitching well for the AAA club, the Twins called him up to the big leagues and it didn’t go well, with Oelkers pitching in 10 games and earning a horrific 8.65 ERA and only 13 strikeouts in thirty-four innings.
Oelkers would never play in the majors for Minnesota again, making a brief appearance in Cleveland three years later and being out of the league by 1990, just eight years after he was picked. This bust is a lot more hurtful when you learn that Dwight Gooden was selected one pick later.
No. 3: Ryan Mills
In the No. 3 spot on this list is Ryan Mills. Mills was the No. 6 pick in the 1998 draft and the first player on this list not to reach the majors. Another Arizona State grad on this list, Mills struggled to use his projectable 6′ 5″ frame to be successful in the minors.
He was solid at only one level of the minors with an ERA of 3.53 during his stop at the Quad Cities (A). He pitched six more seasons in the minors, never making it past Triple-A ball. His 17-40 record and 5.79 ERA were both terrible marks, and his 368 strikeouts look much worse over 480 innings.
To make matters worst, seven all-stars including C.C. Sabathia and Mark Prior were drafted in the first round after him, making the Minnesota Twins’ selection of Mills look even further like a bust.
No. 2: B.J. Garbe
Some Minnesota Twins fans will remember B.J. Garbe as a highly rated prospect for the Twins in the early 2000s. Others know him from his now very successful brewing company Ten Pin Brewing, where he is the CEO. While he may be good at running a company, Garbe struggled to find success in baseball.
The number five overall pick in the talented 1999 draft, Garbe was picked shortly after stars like Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett and shortly before stars like Barry Zito and Ben Sheets. Garbe never lived up to the hype of the players around him, and never made it to the major leagues.
Garbe played seven seasons in the Twins minor league system before being traded away to spend one more season elsewhere. His stat line of .235 BA, 37 HR, 298 RBI over those eight seasons isn’t truly terrible, but for the number 5 pick, it was really disappointing.
No. 1: Adam Johnson
The highest drafted player on this list, Adam Johnson was the Number 2 overall selection in the 2000 MLB draft. The draft had some really solid players taken in the later rounds, but most of the first round was full of busts, Johnson included.
Johnson was a big pitcher at 6′ 2″ and weighing 210 pounds, and the imposing presence he had during a dominant year at California State-Fullerton was supposed to transfer over and it never made it past Single-A, when Johnson was consistently hammered by better hitters.
Unlike the No. 2 and No. 3 players on this list, Johnson made the majors, but was shelled for a 10.25 ERA in only 26.1 innings. He built a -1.0 WAR in just nine games, one of the fastest players to -1 in team history. His status as the No. 2 pick is what sends him to the top spot on this list.